New Telegraph

VC’s move to revolutionise varsity

A silent revolution that leapfrogs and revolutionises academic growth and infrastructural development at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State has been unveiled. The first indigenous university in Nigeria, which formally opened its doors to the first set of students on October 7, 1960, has in the past few years worn a new look that changed the old narrative of dearth of facilities and infrastructural deficit confronting the institution. Thanks to the deliberate efforts and commitment of the ViceChancellor, Prof Charles Arinze Igwe to provide quality university education by initiating various programmes that have continued to further bolster academic and infrastructural development in line with the core mandate of quality teaching, research and community service for the overall growth of the institution, and in line with the aspirations of the founding fathers. Today, UNN, as fondly called by the students, has in the last 64 years of its existence, produced over 200,000 graduates and alumni who are doing great exploits and excelling in their respective chosen fields nationally and globally. Currently, the university has continued to grow in leaps and bounds with two other campuses apart from its Nsukka main campus, which are University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC) and University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) at ItukuOzalla.

Projects

Leading the silent revolution is the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Charles Arinze Igwe, the first alumnus of the university to head the 64-year-old institution, founded by the late Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, the first President of the country. Penultimate week, Prof Igwe, who was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the university in 2019, showcased the numerous completed infrastructural projects and other ongoing projects executed by his administration, when he conducted some select journalists round the campuses. During the facility tour, the ViceChancellor enumerated the efforts by his administration to give the University of Nigeria a facelift, and how the management under his leadership has systematically made significant improvement in all fronts regardless of all odds. Igwe, who recalled that his administration inherited a total of 104 uncompleted projects, however, listed these to include projects sponsored through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) interventions, NEEDS Assessments, capital allocations, and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). But, the good news, according to him, is that his administration had completed 73 of the inherited projects, while construction work is ongoing on the remaining 31 projects. Some of the completed projects include renovation of staff quarters; construction of the cultural centre of the Institute of African Studies; construction of faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, Blocks A, B and C at Ituku-Ozalla; construction and equipment of the Central Laboratory at Nsukka campus; completion of the Department of Archeology Building at Nsukka Campus; rehabilitation of the Old Library Building at Nsukka campus, among others. As part of the revolution, Igwe’s administration which it was learnt initiated a total of 257 projects has so far completed 149, while the remaining 108 projects are at various stages of completion. Some of the projects, which his administration started and completed, include the re-roofing of the Faculty of Arts Blocks A and B Building; completion of the Medical Centre at Nsukka campus; rehabilitation of the College of Postgraduate Studies building; remodeling of the CEDR Building; hostel renovation at UNEC, among others.

Speaking on his determination to leave the university better than he met it in 2019, the ViceChancellor expressed optimism that all the projects initiated by his administration would be completed before the end of his tenure, even as most of them were already in the 90 per cent completion stage. In pursuit of his promise to promote staff welfare, Igwe’s administration has converted a total of 259 members of staff from one cadre to another, while over 170 nonteaching staff, who had upgraded their qualifications were converted to academic staff. Still under staff promotion and welfare, over 89 staff that had been stagnated in a particular cadre over the years, were upgraded to match their qualifications and experience. He said: “So far, we have promoted a total of 197 deserving staff members to the position of professorship, and another 138 staff to the position of Readers (Associate Professor). “At the end of today’s University Academic Promotion Committee meeting, I am sure that more Professors will emerge. Under my watch, no staff of the University of Nigeria, who is qualified, has been denied his or her promotion. “Also, you would have noticed that a number of our students’ hostels have been renovated. Aside from the over 12,000 hostel bed spaces on ground, we are building a new hostel which is located behind Okeke Hall, which is almost completed under the Public-Private-Participation (PPP) arrangements. We are committed to providing conducive and affordable accommodation for our students. “We run a very transparent administration both in the management of our limited resources and also in our relationship with members of staff and students, as well as other stakeholders of the university.” Consequently, the ViceChancellor stressed that the university’s transparent policy of his administration has renewed the confidence of the university alumni in the administration and management of their alma mater, as many of them, as individuals and groups, have donated buildings and equipment to the support university’s development, as well as instituted scholarships for the students. “You would have observed a significant presence of our alumni, especially at the Faculties of Engineering and Law,” Igwe added.

Research and innovation

Beyond achievements in the area of physical infrastructure development, more attention has been paid in encouraging members of staff to conduct impact-based research. As a university concerned with academic excellence, it insisted that the era of dumping of research projects on the shelf was over. The Vice-Chancellor stated: “We, therefore, challenged our staff and research scholars to tailor their research towards solving societal problems. And, indeed the responses we have received so far are encouraging. For instance, the Faculty of Engineering has commenced the installation of a minigrid electrification system which holds great promises for solving our energy challenges. To enhance the development of the university, the Centre for Environmental Management and Control (CEMAC) has been upgraded to Joint NNPC/ SPDC Centre of Excellence in Environmental Management and Green Energy (CEMAGE). Similarly, the African Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Power and Energy Development (ACESPED), domiciled in the Faculty of Engineering has now become a toast of international students, as it is currently hosting over 30 foreign/international students. Also, the Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, Environment for Development (REPRC-EfD) Nigeria, already strengthened, is presently making useful contributions to government policies in the fields of environment and agriculture. The Centre is currently pushing for the review of Nigeria’s Sea Fisheries Act, based on its research findings on fisheries and aquaculture. “We have been able to do the much we have done because of our commitment to prudent use of available resources, and our ability to reach out to wellmeaning Nigerians and alumni of the university for assistance,” the Vice-Chancellor added. Basking in the euphoria of his administration’s laudable achievements in view of the numerous projects executed, and given the several academic laurels won and innovations across the campuses of the university, the Vice-Chancellor said that UNN has not only been making progress on all fronts, but indeed has also become a global player in tertiary education with a reawakened commitment to solving Nigeria’s problems through research and innovation. Apart from the physical development, University of Nigeria, Igwe noted, has continued to re-invent itself by sustaining and improving its place in the league of universities in Nigeria, Africa and the world by extension. In terms of academic output, he stated that members of staff of the university have been quite productive not only in the areas of attendance at conferences locally and internationally, and research publications in reputable journals, but also in terms of inventions/ research and patent. The Vice-Chancellor also recalled that in 2023 alone, the university hosted several national and international conferences, saying the university to his delight is currently publishing a growing number of academic journals for which some of them have been listed or indexed by international agencies. “A good example is the Nigerian Journal of Technology, published by the Faculty of Engineering, which was recently indexed by SCOPUS – the globally recognised abstract and citation database of Elsevier,” he noted. Besides, the Vice-Chancellor explained that a good number of staff of the university also emerged as recipients and winners of several local and international research grants. Some of these include the World Bank grants for research in Sustainable Power and Energy Development valued at $6 million, which is one of the biggest grants ever won at the university. Also, the University Centre for Translation and Implementation Research (CTAIR) in the College of Medicine has won a number of grants valued at about $1 million, collectively won by the staff of the Centre.

IGR

With a population of 36,000 students and 1,519 academic staff, the university has 102 academic departments across 15 faculties and offers 82 undergraduate programmes and 211 postgraduate programmes. On the Internally Generated Revenue of the university, the Vice-Chancellor, who noted that though universities were not established to raise money to run themselves, said as ivory towers, universities were created for learning, research and to engage in pure academics, while their funding essentially is conceived to emanate from endowments, grants, and other sources to be self-sustaining. Igwe said: “The university is not a universal business, and indeed it is not supposed to open a shop at Nsukka market and begin to raise funds just because it needs money. The business of the university is to teach, research, impact knowledge, and do extension services. These are the basic mandates of every university worldwide. “And when we talk about IGR, people sometimes criticise university for not farming, or producing pure water. These things are distractions. I attended universities in Europe, Asia and I have looked at how they manage issues of attracting resources. “One of the ways we have contributed in this direction as a university is that we made our staff work hard in securing international grants and awards across the departments. For instance, in the Department of Soil Science, which is my Department, we acquired equipment while working on our research. That is one of the ways academic staff get funds. But, it is not to sell pure water and bread.’ According to him, this is not the kind of money that the university needs, rather to conduct cuttingedge research and impact society through innovations. “We are not talking about floating buses that will be running from Nsukka market that will be collecting N30 or N40,” he added. Now that President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government has resolved to grant education loans to university students, the Vice-Chancellor expressed optimism that the government will also provide job opportunities for the students so that when they complete their education they will be able to pay back these loans. Consequently, he said that one of the ways of attracting income to the university is by charging appropriate school fees, but lamented that when the university added N5,000 to the students’ school fees, they resorted to protest, saying they didn’t know that they have a Yahoo ViceChancellor. On Federal Government subventions to the university, Igwe regretted that what the institution is receiving monthly is less than N15 million as overhead, and that the last time this was paid was in August. Despite the shortage in monthly alloocation, the university, he noted, pays more than N80 million on electricity bills monthly, apart from the cost of diesel they buy to power the generators as alternative power supply. The Vice-Chancellor, therefore, stated that it is from the less than N90,000 that students pay as tuition fees and N15,000 hostel charges that the university takes care of its numerous needs, and which can lead the university nowhere. Given the high cost of energy and rising cost of diesel, the Vice-Chancellor said these challenges have continued to pose an additional burden on the university, like other public universities in the country. As part of solution to these problems, the Vice-Chancellor hinted that his administration has introduced a programme of resorting to phased transition to renewable energy through the use of solar energy, which of course did not come without a cost. For instance, he recalled that in July 2023 a 20KVA solar power was installed in the administration building, as a solution to the problem of erratic power supply to the institution by Dr. Obioha Fubara Okoroafor, an alumnus of the university, who sponsored the solar project. According to Igwe, there are also plans to achieve such alternative power transitions in some other strategic buildings on the campuses, such as the ICT building and other university Centres in the near future.

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